“Agent Orange” by Ed Kashi

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed some 12 million gallons of Agent Orange herbicide over Vietnam. This defoliant was used to  destroy crops, clear vegetation, and remove the dense forest that provided food and cover for Vietcong forces. At least 4.5 million Vietnamese, and 2.5 million American veterans, may have been exposed to the defoliant. Although the spraying ended 40 years ago, the dioxin from Agent Orange is still wreaking havoc on three generations of victims.

On assignment for the Vietnam Reporting Project, and funded by the Ford Foundation, Ed Kashi captured an intimate portrait of two Vietnamese families whose children’s severe disabilities are believed to be linked to their parents’ exposure to the dioxin in Agent Orange. They are among millions of people who continue to suffer the devastating health and environmental consequences of the defoliant. The film takes place outside the city of Da Nang, a “hotspot” where dioxin levels are more than 385 times acceptable levels. Witness the day-to-day struggles of caring for victims of a war that won’t end.

Kashi’s video footage and photography was used in the short film The Leaves Keep Falling, produced and edited by Julie Winokur/Talking Eyes Media.

At the national level, the U.S. – Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin and others utilized media created by the Vietnam Reporting Project, such as Kashi’s Leaves Keep Falling, to press the U.S. government to increase funding for dioxin clean-up and health programs in Vietnam. As a result, the federal 2011 budget included $18.5 million for toxic site cleanup and health services in Vietnam‒a six-fold increase from previous funding levels. Congress has steadily been appropriating funds over the past decade, with the total funds now reaching over $460 million.